At The American Conservative, Andrew Bracevich excoriates hawkish Senate Republicans who continue to avoid their oversight responsibilities of the war in Afghanistan. He cuts through the curtain of theatrics that surrounds typical hearings on the war and demands that Senators do better. He writes:
Nominally, the Senate Armed Services Committee, along with its counterpart in the House of Representatives, provides oversight of U.S. military activities. Yet recently, the committee’s unacknowledged purpose seems to be avoiding the meaningful exercise of this role, especially when it comes to scrutinizing the nation’s commitment to armed conflicts like the ongoing Afghanistan War.
Oversight implies ownership. The Congress of the United States has no desire to own a war that is the longest in U.S. history, grows longer by the day, and shows no sign of ending anytime soon.
This congressional irresponsibility was on display earlier this month, when Gen. John W. Nicholson, U.S. Army, traveled from his headquarters in Kabul to provide senators with a progress report on the Afghanistan War. Such briefings have become a fixture on Washington’s official calendar. By my count, Nicholson is the 12th American officer to be charged with running that war since it began in 2001. He will not be the last.
In his appearance before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Nicholson came across as brisk and no-nonsense, if also stiff and humorless. Yet the proceedings in which he played a central role had the feel of a ritual that continues to be performed long after participants had lost sight of its original purpose or rationale. Like Labor Day honoring laborers. Or Christmas commemorating the birth of Christ.
General Nicholson’s role was to serve as congressional enabler, allowing members of the committee to sustain the pretense that they were doing their duty. He did this by rendering a report that permitted senators to avert their eyes from anything that might require them to critically assess the war’s conduct and prospects.
Words were exchanged, some few actually conveying information. But all participants agreed to steer clear of anything approximating a conclusion.
As if adhering to a script that had circulated in advance, senators did go through the motions of posing questions. Each in turn thanked Nicholson for his many years of service—to include four tours in Afghanistan—and asked him to pass along their warm regards to the troops. Yet each devoted his or her allotted time to sidestepping core issues.
No one pressed Nicholson as the responsible commander to say when the Afghanistan War might actually end and on what terms. No one dared to suggest that there might be something fundamentally amiss with an armed conflict that drags on inconclusively from one decade to the next. All took care to tiptoe around anything that might imply dissatisfaction with the performance of the U.S. military. On both sides of the witness table, politeness prevailed.
Read more here.
Andrew Bacevich: Why Is No Candidate Offering an Alternative to Militarized U.S. Foreign Policy?
Read more from Bracevich in his books: